A social housing advocate is calling on Housing New Zealand to consult with the community over plans to convert part of a popular Whangarei park into state houses.

But HNZ said it will only engage with Puriri Park Rd residents once "contracts" have been signed. HNZ did not stipulate what type of contract.

HNZ is negotiating to acquire 32,730sq m of land owned by the Ministry of Education that, at first glance, appears to be part of Puriri Park, off the road of the same name, in Maunu.

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But the land is zoned residential - not as a reserve or park.

However, as it is next to 22,000sq m of park land owned by the Whangarei District Council, it has been used as a park since the 1960s.

Of the Ministry of Education's 32,730sq m parcel, 16,500sq m is flat land that could potentially be divided into more than 40 400sq m sections.

The idea has upset many neighbours, but a Whangarei social housing advocate says there is a desperate need for more state housing in the district.

Adrian Whale, chairman of Tai Tokerau Emergency Housing Trust, said he has no problem with state houses going up in a green space because there was already a shortage of land for affordable houses.

However, he said HNZ needed to consult with the community as soon as possible and to make them aware of the desperate situation some families were in.

"There will always be people who'll say 'not in my back yard' and those who'll worry about the devaluation of their properties, but we need to think about how to solve the problem," he said.

The pink portion shows the area zoned
The pink portion shows the area zoned "residential" that has been used as a park since the 1960s.

His office received 182 inquiries from families seeking temporary housing in the second half of 2018. The most recent figures from the Ministry of Social Development shows there were 235 people on the social housing waiting list in Northland.

According to information that Whangarei MP Shane Reti has given residents, the Crown acquired the Puriri Park Rd land, currently zoned residential, for education purposes in the 1960s and placed it under the Ministry of Education's name.

The ministry has previously offered to sell the land to the district council but it declined because of limited funds and the fact there were other parts of the district where spending on a new park would be justified.

According to the council, the suburb of Maunu has 183ha of green space including Barge Showgrounds, Whangarei Museum and the 22,000sq m at Puriri Park.

All up, that's more than almost any other suburb in the district.

Public opinion on HNZ's plan is divided, with most residents close to the proposed development against plans for state houses in their backyard, while others believe it should be supported, given a shortage of housing in the district.

HNZ general manager asset development Patrick Dougherty said it was too early to say what the proposed development would look like or when it would get underway.

More details would be made public at the appropriate time, he said.

"We will engage with the local community once contracts have been signed and we can share any plans for the site," he said.